PLATE 1. Caricature carving by Harold Enlow of Harrison, Arkansas. Silver Dollar City, April 18, 2008.

Ozark History, Culture & Craftsmanship

by Joshua Heston

The Arkansas Ozarks are different from the Missouri Ozarks and I’m racking that difference up to “social and directional influences.”

That’s a fancy way of saying something really simple: The Arkansas Ozarks are in the Deep South. Up here in Missouri, there’s some ambiguity about where our mountains even lie. The Midwest? The South? The gateway to the West? For the Missouri Ozarks, nobody seems to be all that sure.

But down in Arkansas?

The answer is easy to come by. The Boston Mountains, Springfield Plateau, and the Ouachita Mountains are the Deep South’s westernmost mountain ranges, a rugged land of beauty and hardship, a last remnant of Native American culture, a place of deep hollers and longstanding hillbilly families, where the Santa Fe Trail from Fort Smith points the way of the setting sun.

It’s a Deep South culture with Antebellum, Cajun, Spanish and Native American influences… and a deep sense of identity. Gracious old cities like Fayetteville and Little Rock serve as counterpoints to the folk music valley of Mountain View (land of Jimmy Driftwood and the Ozark Folk Center) and the uniquely Southern Gothic city of Eureka Springs.

It’s a land of a proud people, extraordinary mountains and unique Ozarks culture. It’s also home to some of the best food you’re going to find anywhere; a menu heavy with okra gumbo, crawdads, rice, tomatoes with zucchini, fried chicken… and some of the best fruit pies around.

I’m getting hungry.

— FROM JANUARY 2, 2011, STATE OF THE OZARKS WEEKLY ISSUE 164

Ozark Craftsmanship

Shepherd of the Hills Country (1913-1960)

Shepherd of the Hills Country (1913-1960) by J. Thomas and Joshua Heston As Shepherd of the Hills became a bestselling novel, fans of the book began flocking to the Branson area. The visitors hoped to experience Shepherd of the Hills country for themselves. Locals latched onto the notion of making a living from this newfound…

Bois D’Arc Memories

Bois D’Arc Memories by Joshua Ong In the distance, I could hear the pounding of a drum and the hoots and hollers of people in the night. As I drew closer, I could see people dressed in animal skins dancing around a fire. Behind them stood a teepee. Occasionally the sparks from the fire would…

Turkey Creek Artwork: Hollister, Missouri

Turkey Creek Art by T. Adkins The Meeting by T. Adkins Lawlessness prevailed after the Civil War with no legal protection for the settlers of the area. This need for law and order brought the citizens together to form a vigilante group to drive the criminal element from the area. This group of law-abiding men…

Kirk Lewis, Blacksmith

Kirk Lewis, Blacksmith by Joshua Heston Kirk Lewis, 16, is a blacksmith. What is his inspiration? “We had scrap metal around and I always loved medieval stuff. I just started making things and it formed into what it is now out of research.” The video game Fable was inspiration, as well as film trilogy Lord…

BRIGHT GLOWED MY HILLS:

“All life was not dull work for James Columbus Booth. He was a musician. He had no musical training, but somewhere in his Irish and Scotch ancestry there must have been a harp or bagpipe player because Lum could truly make his old fiddle sing. He kept the instrument in a bleached, white muslin flour sack carefully laid in the bureau drawer. Inside the fiddle, he kept a set of rattles from a rattlesnake, ‘to help the tone,’ he explained.”

— Doug Mahnkey, Bright Glowed My Hills, School of the Ozarks Press, Point Lookout, Missouri 1968

PLATE 2. Sunset Ozark Trail. Photo by Joshua Heston, October 29, 2011.

Ozark History

Shepherd of the Hills Country (1913-1960)

Shepherd of the Hills Country (1913-1960) by J. Thomas and Joshua Heston As Shepherd of the Hills became a bestselling novel, fans of the book began flocking to the Branson area. The visitors hoped to experience Shepherd of the Hills country for themselves. Locals latched onto the notion of making a living from this newfound…

Eastern Ozarks Rendezvous

Eastern Ozarks Rendezvous, Glen Allen, MO by Clint Lacy, March 16, 2019 Remarkably I had not been able to attend the first and second Eastern Ozarks Rendezvous event at Barks Plantation in Glen Allen, Missouri, so this year I decided to pay them a visit. The first person I interviewed was “Billy” from Cape Girardeau,…

The Harold Bell Wright Era

The Harold Bell Wright Era by J. Thomas with Joshua Heston To understand Branson today, we must harken back to the earlier days of an old-fashioned people and the early steps of those who walked the paths of these White River Hills. With around seven million visitors a year, Branson has become a center for…

Smells Like Rain & Tastes Like Tears: Shepherd the Musical

PLATE 1. “Young Matt” (Caleb Odenthal) fights the Baldknobbers. Photo by Beckie Fairchild. Smells Like Rain & Tastes Like Tears: Shepherd the Musical by Joshua Heston with Caleb Brubaker “Do they think this is the end?” Dave Wallace wondered as he looked over an audience rising to their feet. The applause was long and lasting…

Eureka Springtime

PLATE 1. A Victorian mansion with neighborly — albeit rickety — bridge as seen on Eureka Spring’s West Mountain, framed by the Ozarks’ setting sun. A Eureka Springtime by Joshua Heston It is Thursday and I am on story assignment — this time at the Ozark Mountain UFO Conference. If there’s one thing I’ve learned…

Sweetest of Monsters

PLATE 1. The Centaur Escapes. The Centaur Escapes displays an enraged centaur, half-man and half-horse — muscular back arched, fists clenched — against a troubled sky. From whom is he escaping? What cause is there of this angst? O’Neill, wisely, leaves that answer to the viewer — or, perhaps more personally, simply kept the answer…

Arcane Ozarks

Kewpie by Joshua Heston

Editor’s note: I was challenged by a good friend to write a “creepy story” involving the nationally recognized Kewpie doll created in the early 20th century by Rose O’Neill, whose Bonniebrook estate lies just a few miles north of Branson near Bear Creek. For the record, I actually find Kewpies to be rather endearing but…

Cottonmouth

Editor’s note: the articles below have been challenged by several readers, calling Dale Grubaugh’s comments “misleading,” and “false.” While StateoftheOzarks respects many differing viewpoints, Grubaugh’s recorded experiences are just that: recorded. An actual experience cannot be labeled “false” if it has occurred — and Grubaugh’s experiences occurred. His writings are presented here objectively. For a…

Search for Truth: UFO Conference

UFO Conference’s Search for Truth by Joshua Heston Eureka Springs, Arkansas. A cool April night. Across the valley, the outstretched arms of the “milk-jug” Jesus reaches my way from East Mountain. The castle hotel balcony upon which I am sitting is known for a lady in white who dissolves in green mist as she plummets…

Castle Ghosts: Pythian Castle

Castle Ghosts: Pythian Castle by Joshua Heston with Stephen Meek There was a knock on the heavy oak door, a door sheltered beneath massive Carthage limestone. “So, have you met the ghosts?” The question came from a covey of OACAC non-profit agency employees, former daytime residents of the Pythian Castle — a monolithic structure of…

The Legend of Breadtray Mountain

The Legend of Bread Tray Mountain RETOLD BY JOSHUA HESTON In the midst of the 15th century — 70 years before Englishmen stepped into the swamp that was to become Jamestown — Spanish conquistadors journeyed into the Ozarks. They were looking for treasure. It is said they found a special mountain overlooking the White River.…

Remember Me by Joshua Heston

Remember Me by Joshua Heston There ain’t no such thing. No such thing at all. That’s what I kept telling myself, sitting on the third floor of the old, boarded-up mill. It was deep winter and night besides. The white limbs of the old sycamore showed like a skeleton’s bones in the bright moonlight, moonlight…